14 September 2010

The Blue Mosque

Posted by Callan Bentley

In Istanbul over the summer, Lily and I checked out the “Blue Mosque,” named for the predominant color of the mosaic tiles in its interior. It’s more formally know as “Sultan Ahmed Mosque,” named for the sultan who commissioned its construction in 1609. It is an elegant building:


I loved the “pile of bubbles” effect of the multiple domes, and then the skyward piercing forms of the minarets.


It also cuts an impressive silhouette at night:

The mosque is open to the public, including tourists. To visit it, you are asked to remove your shoes. Women are asked to cover their hair. Here’s Lily in the appropriate garb:


I was shocked to see how many tourists completely ignored this request, whether out of contempt for the fact that Islam treats men and women differently, or out of sheer cluelessness. I’m no fuddy-duddy, but it seems to me that when you’re visiting a house of worship, you should follow the requests of the host faith.

Once inside, we got a look at the tiles for which the place is named:


There were some interesting uses of building stones. Consider this arch, made of alternating blocks of conglomerate and marble gneiss:


The ceiling of the Blue Mosque soars high above, decorated with more tiles:


An ugly addition to this elegant architecture is a rack of lights, loftily called a “chandelier,” suspended on long cables. I thought this modern tack-on was rather tacky, but I guess it makes prayer easier in the dark hours:


The ceiling is held up by four enormous pillars; many architectural critics find these ungainly and obtrusive:


After our visit, we went to get some traditional Turkish tea at a little place overlooking the Bosphorus. The tea is very sweet, but comes with extra sugar cubes regardless:


Here’s the view of the Bosphorus, the straight separating European Istanbul from Asian Istanbul. You’re looking north in this photo, with Europe on the left, and Asia on the right: